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When it comes to concealing gray, adding more color to hair overall, or brightening up your existing tones, many people look for gentle but effective methods. For most, “gentle” means as chemical-free and natural as possible. Gray hair can present special challenges as its texture and porosity make it resistant to absorbing most color rinses. One helpful yet surprisingly “low-tech” method is to create your own coloring product with powdered cocoa. You can find the necessary ingredients in the average grocery store, and many homes already have them on hand. In little more than the time it takes you to wash and condition your hair, you can rinse away your gray with cocoa.

Mix together an equal amount of plain, unsweetened yogurt and cocoa powder in a bowl. You will need at least ¼ cup of each, although at least twice this amount is best if your hair is shoulder length or longer.

Add 1 tsp. each apple cider vinegar and honey to the mixture. Double these measurements (i.e. 2 tsp. of each) if you used ½ cup of cocoa and ½ cup of yogurt in the first step. Blend the ingredients well.

Set the bowl aside while you shampoo your hair with your regular shampoo. Rinse your hair thoroughly, but do not apply conditioner. Towel-dry your hair, leaving it slightly damp.

Lift your hair with one hand. With the other hand, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the skin around your hairline, over and behind your ears, and along the back and sides of your neck. This will prevent the cocoa mixture from staining your skin.

Spread the cocoa mixture onto your hair, sectioning it and parting it with your fingers as you apply it to ensure even distribution of the color. Be as generous as possible with the mixture to avoid missing any areas of your hair, remembering to coat the ends of your hair as well. Wait at least three minutes before rinsing the cocoa mixture out of your hair. Check your results after drying your hair completely, and repeat as needed.


Any unused mixture can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to nine days.

This method works best if your hair is naturally brown or black. If your natural color is a lighter shade, your results will be less dramatic unless you make a few changes to the directions above. To obtain a deeper hue on hair that is lighter, you can repeat this process two or more times. This will allow your hair to gradually absorb more pigment from the cocoa over a longer period of time. Alternatively, you can apply the mixture and tightly wrap your hair in plastic wrap, securing it with a snug headband along your hairline and wrapping your head in a towel. Let your hair remain wrapped like this for two hours to overnight, then wash it out with lukewarm water. Your hair will be well conditioned and considerably darker.


Hot cocoa mix in powdered form is not a substitute for the cocoa powder needed for this application. Drink mixes contain sugars, dehydrated milk and other agents but very little actual cocoa powder. Make sure that you use only powder from ground cocoa beans. Look for brands from noted chocolate manufacturers that sell the powder in pure form, such as Ghirardelli and Hershey’s.

About the Author

Genae Valecia Hinesman

Genae Valecia Hinesman, former banking executive, entrepreneur and fashion model, began writing professionally in 2002. She is a Cum Laude graduate of the University of Southern California where she studied business, finance and exercise physiology. Her articles featured in Living Healthy: 360, Life 123, the American Chronicle and Yahoo Voices.